Prayer Essentials

For the week ending 8 November 2014 / 15 Heshvan 5775

The Shemoneh Esrei - The Fifth Blessing (Part 3)

by Rabbi Yitzchak Botton
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“Return us back, our Father, to Your Torah, and bring us close, our King, to serving You, and help us return in perfect repentance before You.”

Garments of the Soul

Since man is made up of both body and soul, both are invested in his activities. As such, when a person expresses himself using any or all of his three faculties ― thought, speech, and action ― the soul and body are greatly affected. It is for this reason that one’s thoughts, speech, and actions are called “garments of the soul.” When a person sins he blemishes both his body and soul. However, when he involves himself in Torah and mitzvot he and his soul become pure and holy.

In the blessing above there are three things mentioned: Torah, service, and repentance. They correspond to man’s faculties. Torah corresponding to speech, service to action, and repentance to thought. Thus, through Torah learning, Divine service, and repentance one sanctifies his thoughts, speech, and actions. In fact, the Torah one learns in this world will become his crown in the World-to-Come; and through the actions performed in the service of G-d he builds his future reward. Most of all, a person can attain his portion in the World-to-Come through even a single moment of whole-hearted repentance. In fact, through sincere repentance one becomes closest to G-d. It is for this reason that only regarding repentance is the term “before You” mentioned. (Dover Shalom)

Not Totally Forgotten

Implied in a request to return to G-d’s Torah is that we have already been united together with the Torah before. When was this? The Sages say that each person is taught the entire Torah before he is born while in his mother’s womb. Since one’s learning then is not hindered by the evil inclination, or by any of the distractions experienced once in this world, he is able to gain exceptional clarity. Although one forgets all that he learned after being touched on the upper lip by an angel, through diligent Torah study one’s learning will be returned to him. Accordingly, we ask that G-d return us to the Torah that was ours before. (Iyun Tefilla)

Divine Assistance

One may ask, according to the Sages, all is in the hands of G-d except for the fear of G-d. How then can we ask for G-d to help us return to His Torah and service?

Despite man’s freedom to choose to heed the word of G-d or not, G-d does not remove Himself completely from the picture. Rather, He stands by, illuminating a person from above, thus helping him to be strong in his Divine service. (Leshem Shevo Ve’achlama)

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